The salmon processing plant in Hermitage has officially started production — an event that has been a long time coming.

The plant had been owned by Gray Aqua, but the company hadn't used it prior to running into financial trouble last year.

The facility is now under long-term lease to Cooke Aquaculture.

Cooke moved to the plant after its lease with the Barry Group in Harbour Breton ended earlier this year.

“We had rather an exciting day [Wednesday],” Cooke Aquaculture vice-president of communications Nell Halse told CBC’s Fisheries Broadcast.

“We processed our first fish in the Hermitage facility. I think it’s the first time for approximately four years that plant has seen fish going through.”

About 30 people are now working with Cooke in Hermitage.

“It’s really good for us to have this long-term arrangement — not only long-term, but there are clauses in it for extensions,” Halse said.

“So it provides us with a lot of stability.”

Halse calls the current stage of operations a “soft” opening, with bigger things planned over the long term.

She says the number of employees in Hermitage will likely grow beyond the current level of 30, but it’s too early to provide an actual number yet.